C/O Yoohyun Park
Concerns raised surrounding clean drinking water access in Indigenous communities
At the beginning of October, Iqaluit residents began noticing an odour in their tap water and some expressed feeling ill. After an initial inspection of the treatment plant and water samples on Oct. 4, the city of Iqaluit determined that the water was safe to drink. However, a second investigation on Oct. 12 yielded different results.
Since Oct. 12, Iqaluit has been under a state of emergency and residents have been advised not to drink tap water, even after boiling or filtering it, due to a presence of fuel in the water supply.
On Oct. 24, the Canadian Armed Forces arrived in Iqaluit to set up a reverse osmosis water purification system. The CAF is purifying water from Iqaluit’s Sylvia Grinnell River and transporting it to a city water truck, which then transports it to water filling depots.
Until the arrival of the CAF, residents were receiving bottled water from distribution sites and collecting water from the Sylvia Grinnell River.
While the CAF is providing residents with potable water, trucked water deliveries in Iqaluit will no longer contain potable water as of Tuesday, Nov. 9. While residents can still use trucked water deliveries for bathing, laundry, handwashing and dishwashing, they are no longer able to drink it.
The state of emergency in Iqaluit is currently set to last until Nov. 23.
At McMaster University, Makasa Looking Horse is actively involved in projects that address water needs for Indigenous communities. One such project is the Global Water Futures project, which Looking Horse is the educational lead for.
Global Water Futures is a Canadian university-led research project aiming to manage water futures in areas with cold climates, such as Canada, and landscapes changing due to global warming.
“Global Water Futures aims to position Canada as a global leader in water science for cold regions and will address the strategic needs of the Canadian economy in adapting to change and managing risks of uncertain water futures and extreme events,” stated the Global Water Futures website.
Looking Horse highlighted that water crises in Indigenous communities are not uncommon and that they can happen for a multitude of reasons. She explained that water crises occur when there are problems with treatment plants and when there are problems piping water from treatment plants to households.
“Infrastructure within Canada for Indigenous communities is in really bad shape,” said Looking Horse.
In 2015, 126 drinking water advisories existed in First Nations, prompting the federal government to commit to resolving them by March of 2021. However, inadequate funding was allocated to meeting this goal and many advisories remain in effect. Water-borne diseases occur within First Nations 26 times more than the national average and people living on reserves are currently 90 times more likely to have no access to running water compared to non-Indigenous people living off reserves.
On Nov. 3, the Cooperative Indigenous Students Studies and Alumni at McMaster shared a post about the Iqaluit water crisis and noted how the federal government has not kept their promise to eliminate water advisories in Indigenous communities.
Mainly, CISSA referred to the fact that 58 advisories still remain despite prime minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to eliminate all long-term boil water advisories by March of 2021.
“It has become abundantly clear that one cannot disentangle social conditions from health conditions and that the causes of recurrent Indigenous water insecurity are rooted in sociopolitical neglect. The lack of access to clean, safe water is a reflection of long standing political and economic marginalization,” stated CISSA in their post.
For McMaster students, Looking Horse noted that there are always ways to help make clean water more accessible in general.
“Whether it's donating water to the food bank or cleaning up [garbage], whatever you want to work on, whether that's writing or doing something physical, you can definitely do something to make a difference,” said Looking Horse.
Looking Horse has extensive experience protecting access to water for Indigenous communities. Beyond her role in Global Water Futures, she did a lot of advocacy work to protect the Six Nations water supply when she found out that Nestle was taking 3.6 million litres of water from the Six Nations aquifer without the community’s permission.
Within Global Water Futures, Looking Horse has been part of multiple community projects, such as tracking snapping turtles on Six Nations to collect more data about the environment.
“This kind of project really hasn't hasn't existed before and so we're super proud [of it]. It's a water project on Six Nations that all of these different professors at McMaster University and other universities and different departments are working [on] together,” said Looking Horse.
The water crisis continues to be a significant issue in Iqaluit and across Indigenous communities, with many long-term water advisories still in effect and goals to resolve them not being met. McMaster students interested in taking action can refer to CISSA’s social media posts with more information on petitions to sign and links where donations can be made.
Travis Nguyen/Photo Editor
After a year of inactivity, the McMaster Students Union Emergency First Response Team is running again
According to their Facebook page, the McMaster Students Union Emergency First Response Team is “a 24/7 service that provides confidential medical care to anyone in need on the McMaster University campus.” With approximately thirty volunteers working to provide emergency medical services, EFRT has been a fixture on campus since the 1980s.
EFRT is a group of undergraduate students who are trained to respond to a variety of medical emergencies. According to EFRT Program Director Ivy Quan, all EFRT volunteers have been trained as first responders and emeregency medical responders under the Red Cross. Some of the more senior members of EFRT have further medical training as well.
During the 2020-2021 school year, EFRT was inactive due to COVID-19.
“[EFRT wasn’t] really on call last year because campus was closed and everything moved online, so the responders weren't in Hamilton to run shifts,” explained Quan.
According to Quan, EFRT dedicated its time over the course of the last year towards training a new batch of responders. This year, given that campus has reopened, EFRT is back on call.
“We do have to put in a lot of steps to make sure that our responders as well as the patients that we see are safe [from COVID-19],” said Kiran Roy, EFRT's public relations coordinator.
According to Roy, these safety steps involve mandatory personal protective equipment training for responders, mandatory masks for patients and bystanders — unless a mask would interfere with treatment for the patient — and two different rounds of COVID-19 screening questions.
Roy and Quan both emphasized the importance of the role that EFRT plays on campus.
“We know our way around campus because we're part of the university,” Roy explained.
This allows EFRT to get to calls very quickly, making the response time faster for patients.
Along with the logistical benefits of calling EFRT, Roy and Quan both stressed the emotional benefits as well.
“I think it probably creates a sense of ease amongst the patients that we meet because they know that we're just like them and we're also students. We understand what they're going through from a mental health point of view,” said Roy.
According to Quan, EFRT receives approximately 500 calls a year. While many of these calls are medical emergencies, their role on campus goes beyond this as well.
“We also do a lot of calls to, [for example], first years, who are worried about something; we also are a mental health service,” explained Quan.
“We may be an emergency response team, but if anyone is unsure about their health, [unsure about] their safety, even just a little bit not sure what's going on, they can always call us and we're happy to come,” said Roy.
Applications to join EFRT will open in early October and the recruitment process will take place from October to January.
“We're so excited to be back on call,” Quan said.
As EFRT responders welcome a year of getting back into action, McMaster students can also look forward to seeing the team all around campus once again.
Monday night, a group of McMaster students issued a petition urging McMaster administration to cancel classes and assessments on the afternoon of Sept. 27 so that students, staff and faculty can participate in a climate strike this Friday.
The students organizing the petition are a part of McMaster Students for Climate Change Advocacy (MSCCA), a McMaster-based climate advocacy organization.
The planned climate strike will come as part of a week of mass climate actions from Sept. 20-27, culminating in a global general strike to raise the alarm on the climate crisis.
Climate activists are planning a mass disruption, calling on people from all facets of society to walk out of school and work, thus disrupting business as usual and forcing leaders to pay attention.
“Together, we will sound the alarm and show our politicians that business as usual is no longer an option. The climate crisis won’t wait, so neither will we,” says a statement from Global Climate Strike, an environmental organization coordinating the protests.
While organizers hope that this will be Hamilton’s largest climate strike, it is not the first. Since March, young people from schools across Hamilton have been organizing regular protests to bring attention to the climate crisis. In collaboration with Fridays for future, young people from around the world have been walking out of classes on Fridays to demand immediate, far-reaching action on the climate emergency.
By making sacrifices to their education in order to attend the climate strikes, the activists are demonstrating that the climate crisis is an immediate priority.
“You’re really going to show that these people are in it for the long haul and especially if you’re missing work [or] you’re missing school. You are taking consequences and showing the fact that . . . if you don’t take care of this now, you won’t have a job, you won’t have school,” said Kirsten Connelly, MSCCA founder and co-president.
The urgency of the climate crisis was highlighted in a 2018 report from the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change. According to the report, it is of critical importance to limit global warming to 1.5°C within the next decade. It is very likely that failure to do so will result in catastrophic changes including mass extinction, floods, wildfires and the spread of infectious diseases.
Earth Strike Canada, the organization coordinating the Canadian climate strikes, asserts that the climate crisis is a result of an economic system that relies on indefinite growth, requiring unsustainable resource use and thus diminishing future quality of life. Earth Strike Canada’s demands include investments into green technological advancement, resource management reform and economic reform.
MSCCA’s role has been to encourage McMaster students to participate in the climate strike. To accomplish this, they are urging the university to cancel classes and evaluations on Friday afternoon so that students, staff and faculty can participate without penalty.
“Students shouldn’t have to choose between global citizenship and McMaster citizenship,” stated Connelly.
On Sept. 13, Concordia University announced that they would be cancelling classes the afternoon of Sept. 27 to allow students to attend the climate strike. McMaster students are urging the university to follow suit.
Last week, McMaster issued a statement saying that the university would stay open on Sept. 27 so that academic and research activities can continue as scheduled.
However, MSCCA members are still hopeful. As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had over 2,100 signatures on Change.org, and the numbers are growing.
Organizers are pushing for a mass climate strike around the world. Hamilton’s climate strike will be held on Sept. 27 at 12:00 in Gore Park.
Hamilton city council recently declared a climate emergency and pledged to substantially reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. While the declaration carries symbolic weight, the ambitious emission reduction targets can only be met if city council commits significant resources towards climate change measures. Climate activists and city councilors weigh in on what this will mean for the city.
On March 27, Hamilton city council finalized the decision to declare a climate emergency in the city of Hamilton.
The decision comes as a result of a report from the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change released in October 2018. The report found that, unless humanity limits global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, there will be a risk of long lasting and irreversible changes that will result in major loss of life.
The report found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would mean reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 45 per cent of 2010 levels by 2030, and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” stated the report.
Hamilton city council has joined a number other Canadian cities, including Kingston, Vancouver and Halifax, who have pledged to reduce emissions to meet these targets.
The declaration instructs the city manager to put together a multi departmental task force and present an emission reduction plan within 120 days.
According to the 2018 vital signs report released by the Hamilton community foundation, Hamilton has double the per capita GHG emissions compared to other greater Toronto and Hamilton area cities.
The 2015 community action plan set the goals of reducing GHG emissions by 20 per cent of 2006 levels by 2020, 50 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. The new goals, however, are more ambitious.
By declaring a climate emergency, the city aims to communicate the degree of risk to the public and demonstrate that the city is taking the issues seriously. During the board of health meeting, environment Hamilton climate campaign coordinator Ian Borsuk noted that it is important to show the public that the city understands the severity of the issue.
Additionally, a major goal of the declaration is to coordinate municipal action to develop a centralized strategy for dealing with climate change. This will take the form of a multi departmental task force across city departments.
“This isn’t something that can be left as a side project, this isn’t something that can be left as another file, this is something that needs to be part of what the city does every single day,” stated Borsuk during the presentation.
At the March 18 board of health meeting, presenters from environment Hamilton made suggestions to the city about ways to reduce emission levels by the target dates, noting that the city has already taken significant measures to reduce GHG emissions, but can do more.
One suggestion was to expand and improve public transit. Currently, Hamilton street rail ridership falls short of projections by about 10 per cent. The city is currently working towards a 10 year plan to improve HSR service, which includes improving service and adding capacity.
After industry, transportation is the largest emitter of greenhouse gas in Hamilton. According to Hamilton 350 coordinator Don McLean, transportation is one of the areas that the city can make the biggest difference. By extending bus service and making transit more affordable, McLean sees potential for large increases in ridership.
McLean also notes that Hamilton charges some of the lowest parking fees in Canada. The city owns some parking facilities, and has the ability to tax parking lots separately in order to drive pricing. In order to incentivize people to take public transit, McLean says, the parking rate has to be considerably higher than bus fare.
“Why switch to a bus if I can park downtown all day for $4?" he asked.
Another suggestion that environment Hamilton made to the board of health was to develop a “green standard” for new public and private buildings. By mandating energy use limits, the city can make a substantial difference in emissions.
Environment Hamilton executive director Lynda Lukasik also noted during the presentation that enhancing green infrastructure would help the city meet its emission targets. This includes measures such as bio soils, better managed storm water, and planting an urban forest.
Urban canopy currently sits at about 18 per cent, which is 12 per cent below the official target. Expanding the urban forest would help draw down emissions, reduce stormwater flows, and mediate heat effects.
In order to meet these goals, multiple environmental organizations across Hamilton have suggested that the city commits to applying a climate lens to all of its decisions. Similarly to the equity, diversity and inclusion lens equity, diversity and inclusion lens announced in March, the climate lens would evaluate all city actions in terms of their climate impact.
One of the main challenges for meeting the emission reduction targets is resource availability. During the board of health meeting, ward 3 councilor Nrinder Nann pointed out that achieving the commitments would likely involve retrofitting almost every building across Hamilton and switching to electric or hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles. Implementing these measures would require substantial investments of time and money.
Currently, the community climate change action plan receives provincial funding from the proceeds of the cap and trade program. However, the province scrapped the cap and trade program in October 2018 and has pulled funding from other environmental initiatives. Therefore funding for the emissions reduction plan would likely have to come from other sources.
Ward 4 councilor Sam Merulla noted that the challenge will become clear once staff reports the budget to city council within 120 days. If people hear that their taxes will increase, they may be resistant to implementing the plan.
However, Nann pointed out that even though dealing with climate change requires immediate spending, it will generate revenue in the long term. Additionally, inaction will incur high remedial costs.
Another challenge for meeting the emission reduction targets is industry. Industry accounts for 83 per cent of Hamilton's emissions, a large percentage of which comes from steel mills. However, steel mills are under provincial and federal jurisdiction, meaning that the city does not have direct control over their emissions.
Despite this, notes McLean, the city can work towards offsetting emissions through agricultural practices and reforestation.
Even if the city manages to reach the emission reduction targets in time, McLean worries that it will be too little, too late.
Climate change is a cumulative problem, meaning that all GHGs currently in the atmosphere will continue to contribute to warming, even if emissions stop.
“The kinds of things that are being talked about now are the kinds of things that should have been very actively implemented 30 years ago,” he stated. “ If you've got a cumulative problem then setting any date in the future as to when we should stop is too late.”
In order to make the climate change emergency more than a symbolic gesture, the city will have to dedicate significant resources and implement regular checkpoints to reduce emissions. The true weight of this declaration will become clear once the task force presents the emission reduction plan to city council. To achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the city has to implement unprecedented changes across all aspects of decision-making.
Here’s a look at five major provincial, Hamilton and McMaster stories that hit the newscycle last week.
1. Provincial government releases sexual assault survey results
The survey, which was sent out last year, asked students to outline their experiences with sexual violence at their post-secondary institution.
The results of the survey, released on March 19, also describe the experiences of sexual assault and violence McMaster students have had while completing their degrees. Here are some of the report’s key findings:
More information about the results of the survey, including McMaster University and McMaster Students Union’s response to them, will be included in the Silhouette’s April 4 issue.
A new McMaster-affiliated study underscores the strong link between precarious employment and mental health, offering a snapshot into the mental health of precariously employed millennials in Hamilton.
The comprehensive 103-page study reveals the results of the 89-question online Hamilton Millennial Survey, which surveyed nearly 1,200 employed millennials living in Hamilton last year.
Following the massacre of 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Hamilton Police Services launched an investigation into Paul Fromm, a Hamilton-based white supremacist. Fromm recently ran for mayor in the 2017 municipal election and received 706 votes.
As part of a global push to confront climate change, Hamilton has joined hundreds of other municipalities, voting to declare a climate emergency last Monday.
On March 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., students marched through the McMaster University Student Centre and protested outside of the building’s courtyard, demanding radical changes to the post-secondary education system.
The protest was part of the Red Spring campaign and launched by the Revolutionary Student Movement, an anti-capitalist organization on campus.
Some of the demands of the protest include:
While there are no definitive plans for another protest, Khan notes that the campaign will not end anytime soon.
Canada is currently plagued by an opioid crisis. Opioids such as fentanyl are drugs that are commonly used to relieve pain. These drugs, however, can be extremely addictive and their misuse has led to thousands of overdoses and deaths.
In 2017, 88 Hamilton residents died from opioid overdoses. So far into this year, Hamilton Paramedic Services has already responded to 161 incidents of suspected opioid overdoses. In comparison to other cities within the province, Hamilton has the highest opioid-related death rate.
While there is no publicly available data on the demographics of opioid use in Hamilton, in general, young adults aged 18 to 25 are the most vulnerable to opioid misuse. As the rate of opioid misuse increases annually, it is imperative that students are aware of the availability of naloxone.
Naloxone is a fast-acting drug that temporarily reverses the effects of opioid overdoses until medical emergency services can arrive. As of March 2019, Public Health and the Naloxone Expansion Sites in Hamilton have distributed 2496 doses of naloxone, with 285 people reported as being revived by the drug.
McMaster University’s student-led Emergency First Response Team and McMaster University security officers carry and are trained to use naloxone nasal kits in case of emergency situations. While Mac’s security officers only recently began to carry the kits, EFRT responders have been carrying them since August 2017.
Fortunately, EFRT has not had to use any of their kits since they began carrying them. While this may imply that opioid-related overdoses have not occurred on campus, this does not guarantee that students are not at risk at opioid misuse.
As EFRT responders and McMaster security cannot always be available to respond to students’ needs off-campus, students should be more aware of their ability to carry and be trained to use naloxone kits.
While the Student Wellness Centre does not carry the free naloxone kit, the McMaster University Centre Pharmasave located within the McMaster University Student Centre does, in addition to the Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies located near campus. To obtain a kit, all students must do is show their Ontario health card.
The fact that this life-saving drug is so readily available to students on and near campus is amazing. It is disappointing then that the university hasn’t done a sufficient job in advertising this information to students.
Students should be given naloxone kits and mandatory opioid information and response training at the beginning of the academic term. At the very least, this information can be distributed during Welcome Week along with other orientation events.
The opioid crisis is one that affects us all, especially here in Hamilton. McMaster University should help fight this crisis by ensuring that their students are equipped with the knowledge to recognize an opioid overdose and have the necessary tools to help reverse them.
By: Elliot Fung
In January 2019, McMaster Security Services announced an update to their mobile safety app, allowing students to receive safety alert notifications and information about campus safety resources.
The app, which was developed in partnership with both McMaster and the McMaster Students Union, provides a centralised location for contact information for a multitude of emergency and non-emergency safety services.
In 2013, McMaster Security Services released an application that included the capacity to easily contact emergency services, the MSU Emergency First Response Team and request the MSU Student Walk Home Attendant Team.
In addition, users could access transit information, the university’s emergency protocols and live alerts.
The 2019 update includes many of the previous features and adds new ones.
However, the new app has omitted information about EFRT and transit.
Among the app’s new noteworthy features includes a “Friend Walk” option that allows students to watch their friends as they travel home.
Friend Walk allows a user to send their real-time location to a friend. The user picks a friend to send their location to via SMS or email and then initiates a walk and chooses a destination.
If the user is under duress, they have to option to notify their friend and start an emergency call. If either the user or the friend disconnects from the walk, an option to contact emergency services will appear on the screen.
According to a McMaster Daily News article about the app update, “Friend Walk” serves to enhance the on-campus SWHAT service, which provides students with the ability to walk to a destination with the company of two attendants.
Another notable feature of the app is a crime map.
The map displays the location and dates of recent crimes in Hamilton and the area surrounding McMaster.
Crimes displayed include categories like auto-theft, car burglary and residential burglary.
The app also features a section about student support services, where users can access information about various student supports on-campus including the McMaster Equity and Inclusion Office, sexual violence support, and McMaster Wellness Centre.
Users can also email facility services to report an issue.
However, according to the “On-Campus Infrastructure Policy Paper” passed by the MSU Student Representative Assembly in Nov. 2018, the process of submitting a work order for a repair of infrastructure is still meticulous and unavailable to off-campus students.
The safety app is an improvement to the outdated safety app that was implemented in 2013.
The McMaster Security Services website characterizes the app as a ‘must have’ that contains valuable features and information.
However, it appears the app may not do a great deal to improve students’ experiences.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, the MSU proposed a variety of suggestions for increasing student safety on and off campus and improving the university’s response via the university’s sexual violence prevention and response policy.
As it stands, the university has yet to implement these recommendations and make improvements to these resources.
Among the recommendations relating to infrastructure in the policy paper were increasing the number of red assistance phones and improving lighting on campus and in the surrounding housing areas.
The newly updated safety app does not ensure these larger recommendations are implemented, only consolidating information that is already available online.
In addition, while students can use the app to access information about sexual violence support at McMaster, they also cannot do much beyond that to improve their experience and safety.
More information about the safety app can be found at https://security.mcmaster.ca/crime_prevention_safetyapp.html.
It’s that time of the year where everyone is looking for a place to rent. Searching for off-campus housing is a source of headache for many students. But what students shouldn’t have to worry about is invasions of their privacy.
As of now, my landlord could text me saying he has a viewing for the house within the next hour and he’d be allowed to enter the property. Why? According to Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act, once tenants have given notice to terminate their tenancy, landlords are allowed to show prospective tenants the property so long as they make a “reasonable effort to inform the current tenants of their intentions to do so”.
The ambiguity of “reasonable effort” allows landlords to barely give any notice that they will enter the property. It even states in Section 26 that this “reasonable effort” does not have to be within 24 hours’ notice. Though this is technically legal, it serves as a major inconvenience to tenants who cannot be expected to schedule their day around frequent and inconsistent house showings.
Beyond a mere inconvenience, allowing landlords to enter student-rented property essentially whenever they wish to do so can be seen as a threat to student safety. Without adequate notice, students may have not have time to secure their valuables or ensure that they are not in compromising positions.
Students are in especially vulnerable positions, many of whom are not well-versed in their rights and may even be minors.
Although it may very well be in the best interest of students to allow their landlord to show the property to prospective tenants — as the sooner the new lease is signed, the sooner the invasions of privacy can stop — it does not excuse the blatant disrespect that students have to endure when their landlords appear at odd hours of the day with little notice.
The only requirement of landlords when showing the property to prospective tenants, besides “reasonable effort to inform”, is that they must enter between the times of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. This should barely be considered a requirement as that timeframe basically cover the entirety of waking hours.
Realistically, appointments for house showings are made well in advance of 24 hours. As such, landlords should be mandated to inform tenants at least 24 hours in advance prior to entering the property, as they are required to in almost any other situation.
In fact, as it stands, landlords can only enter the property without giving 24-hour notice in cases of emergency, under the tenant’s consent, where the tenancy agreement allows for the landlord to enter the property within specified times to clean or during property showings.
While the other situations make sense, as with the exception of an emergency, they require the tenant’s consent, there is no reason to not give tenant’s 24-hour notice before property showings.
Beyond such a requirement being in the best interests for the tenants, giving adequate notice can benefit the landlord as it gives the tenants time to clean the property and make it look presentable.
The government should seriously consider revisiting their tenancies act in order to make these changes. This not only affects students, but tenants across Ontario.
The York Regional Police, based just north of Toronto, have provided a few tips to help keep you safe on the roads.
Weathering the conditions: Double-check the weather conditions before heading out. Weather can be severe and change quickly, so it’s extremely important to know the latest weather and traffic conditions, and to leave yourself plenty of time to arrive safely.
Get road-ready: Ensure your vehicle is prepared for the winter. Investing in winter tires is a good place to start. Top-up windshield fluids and antifreeze, ensure you have enough gas for every journey, and update your car’s emergency kit. Clear snow and ice from the windshield and mirrors, as well as from the top of the car and from wheel-wells to increase safety for other drivers.
Buckle up: Always wear your seatbelt, and make sure all of your passengers do too. While this may seem obvious as it's the law, it’s also the most important safety consideration no matter the road conditions.
Eyes on the road: Drive slowly and be aware of other motorists and road hazards. Winter roadways can feature big snow-removal vehicles and sand/salt-trucks, as well as distracted drivers and crosswalks full of pedestrians with arm-loads of gifts! Take the necessary precautions and make sure you’re always in control of your vehicle.
Arrive alive: The holidays are all about good times with family and friends. Don’t drink and drive.
Icy roads, limited visibility, Top 40 Radio…lots of things can impact your time on the road this winter. If you are involved in a fender-bender this season, remember to contact local police immediately if your collision involves:
One of the biggest talking points that most candidates make when running for a seat on the Student Representative Assembly is transparency. The word has been tossed around so much that it has basically become a buzzword. But transparency is more than just a talking point; it’s an incredibly important behaviour that the SRA needs to adopt.
During the SRA meeting on Jan. 20, the SRA discussed how they can make their assembly more survivor-centric. Namely, a motion was passed to task the vice president (Administration), in collaboration with the sexual violence response coordinator Meaghan Ross, to develop an amendment to the constitution which includes an emergency response procedure for sexual violence.
This occurred after an SRA member was accused of engaging in sexual assault and another member supported that member. As of now, the SRA cannot ask these members to step down from their positions, only suggest that they should.
The proposed changes to the constitution could allow the SRA to remove such members from their assembly. This is important news in support of survivors, but unfortunately this information has not been made widely available.
Navigating the SRA website is far from an easy task. While the interface itself is user-friendly, information is difficult to find. For example, one would think that meeting minutes from SRA meetings would be listed under SRA minutes but this webpage only contains broken links from April 2018. The actual minutes from SRA meetings are posted under SRA documents amidst other documents and memos.
The minutes themselves are lengthy and filled with unfamiliar jargon that the average student should not be expected to know. This length and volume leads to the vast majority of students not reading the minutes and remaining unaware of the changes that are occurring within the university.
Beyond the content of the minutes, it is also unclear when the meeting minutes are posted. Two weeks ago, on Jan. 9, I was searching for the Jan. 6 meeting minutes, found nothing, and was forced to watch the hour-long livestream to understand what happened.
Though the Jan. 6 meeting minutes are posted now, they are posted under the Jan. 20 heading. I’m not sure when they were posted considering that nowhere on the SRA site do they state when they post meeting minutes after each meeting. Students should not be expected to consistently check the site or watch hours of livestream footage to stay informed.
Instead, minutes should be posted as soon as they are available. A three-day turnaround seems more than reasonable.
If the meeting minutes take long to post, at the very least the SRA or its individual caucuses should create summary documents for students to review. These documents can forgo the jargon and essentially list the important details that were discussed.
Students interested for more information can then consult the meeting minutes, or better yet, review a transcript of the livestream, which remain available to view after the meetings occur. I understand that it is difficult to transcribe a live meeting however, in the interests of accessibility, SRA meetings should be transcribed afterwards to allow individuals who require accommodations the ability to access the livestream videos.
Moreso, when watching the Jan. 20 livestream, a comment was made that some of the information that was discussed would not be included in the meeting minutes. There must be a reason — not all comments made are deemed important enough to include in the minutes — but if the SRA would like to be considered transparent, these comments should be made available for students to interpret on their own. A transcript of the meetings could provide this transparency.
This is not the first time that the SRA has been called out for its lack of transparency. As a governing body that is meant to represent the entire student body of McMaster University, the SRA has a responsibility to do better. The SRA is making some important, positive changes for the university — if only students were aware.